Posted on Tue 08 Aug 2017
My first sight of this range was a year ago when I reviewed the whole stable of Jackson's oil and acrylic brushes for The Artist June 2016 issue. I've been working with the test brushes in one form or another since my initial review.
In general hog brushes are tough little chaps, perhaps slightly primitive. They exude resilience and are totally able to carry paint, no matter how viscous. They stand up to rough treatment but eventually lose some of their shape and become a different beast to the one you originally bought. Experienced painters expect this metamorphosis and cope with it by using worn brushes for other strokes or marks.
Two Gentlemen and a Bike, oil on canvas board, (25x30cm).
Using Jackson's Black Hog brushes, mostly filberts, I kept the approach soft and almost without edges of any description. Even the bicycle was kept loose and without emphasis.
Black Hogs in close-up
Jackson’s Black Hogs are different – not rudimentary but sophisticated in so many ways – a class act. When you pick up a brush the first thing you notice is the balance. It sits perfectly in the hand and the fulcrum, or balance point, is a third of the way up the handle. The long, matt black handle has the feel of coolness and contrasts beautifully with the chrome ferrule and the unusual dual colour of the bristle – burnt umber at the business end, fading to a much lighter shade as it reaches the ferrule.
When compared to other hogs the Black Hog bristles are silky smooth, fine and springy, almost like a hybrid, perhaps a hog/sable mix? The manufacture and quality of all Jackson's brushes is superb and, in my opinion, the Black Hog is at the zenith of this.
I tested the flats, sizes 2, 4, 8 and 12, and filberts sizes 4, 6, 8 and 10. The crafting of the bristle shape at the toe end is very important, as is mark making. Leaving a particular brushmark in a heavy or impasto paint would influence my choice of brush from the outset, which is why this brush surprised me particularly. It has a sophisticated, up-market appearance and feel, yet behaves like a street fighter.
Boscastle, Tide In, acrylic on gessoed hardboard, (30x60cm).
Jackson’s Black Hog flats were used to make particularly edgy and definite brushmarks in a loose but specific way to protect the boat shapes but make the harbour less obvious. The mark making was the focus of this painting, with the value structure being secondary. I expected this to be semiabstract, and was successful.
Hog brushes are at their best when being flexed, splaying out as the pressure applied to make the bristles spread gives the paint a softer, more cloud-like appearance. They are perfect for blending oils or laying in a light underpainting; Black Hogs are equal to this, and bounce back for more, almost like a synthetic in everything but the mark they leave.
Pushing a brush against the bristles is not a movement or painting method I would recommend but in my testing I tried it with a regular hog and a Black Hog. They both behaved similarly, but the mark making was different, possibly because the regular hog was slightly stiffer and therefore required greater effort. In a more usual painting action such as stroking or placing of pigment, Jackson’s Black Hogs exceeded my expectations in their ability to hold paint, the springiness of the filaments helping to support a stroke shape, and also the physical aspects of the manufacture, particularly balance. I tried them on cotton canvas, linen boards and gessoed hardboard. In each case the mark was true and without fuss.
If, unlike me, you are a painter who prefers a smoother finish to your work then the Black Hog brushes would be your perfect tool, too. As I mentioned previously the strength of this particular brush is in its flexibility and longevity, which is why it is a must to try regardless of your painting style. In my painting kit I have used two particular brushes for about 14 months and they show little sign of wear and have become a staple of my brush armoury.
One other point to take note is that Black Hogs work well with oil and acrylic paint. Because of their springiness and ability to leave marks but are slightly malleable, they suit both media for slightly different reasons. I am a great believer in trying out a brush type to see if it suits my process and I have used Jackson's Black Hogs across oil and acrylic work with great success.
Jackson's Black Hog brushes come in three series: Pointed Round 333; Flat 334; and Filbert 335, all in sizes 2 to 12.
Discover more at www.jacksonsart.com
Max Hale studied at Harrow School of Art. He teaches workshops and painting holidays, and offers personal mentoring. His DVD First Steps in Water-Mixable Oils is available from Town House Films price £29.95; www.townhousefilms.co.uk; telephone 01603 782888.